tv Tavis Smiley PBS October 5, 2010 12:30am-1:00am EDT
with amy walter, political director for abc news. actor sam rockwell is here. he stars opposite hilary swank in "conviction". a . view of the midterm elections -- a preview of the mid term elections. >> all i know is his name is james, and he needs extra help with his reading. >> i'm james. >> yes. >> to everyone making a difference, you help us all live better. >> nationwide insurance supports tavis smiley. with every question and answer, nationwide insurance is happy to help tavis improve financial literacy and remove obstacles to economic empowerment one conversation at a time. nationwide is on your side. >> and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you.
thank you. tavis: in four weeks, americans had to the polls. for more tonight, but will be joined by amy walter -- we will be joined by amy walter. congratulations and good to have you back. >> glad to be here. tavis: republicans were going to clean the clocks of democrats and now of late, i see republicans john boehner and others starting to back down a bit on these predictions about what we thought they were going
to pull off in november. am i reading this wrong? >> i do not think so. we have been hearing for quite some time that this is going to be a big election, a good election for republicans. all factors are in their favor. we're looking at when we look at the poll numbers out there, the president's approval rating is under 50%. the enthusiasm gap. republicans more motivated than democrats. people are frustrated with the way the president is handling the economy, go down the list. the republicans will tell you we have never said at a right we are taking control of congress, but it is clear the expectations game has gone out of their control. the expectation is republicans, it is not enough just to have a good night. they should have a great night. in the house, that would mean john boehner would win over as speaker.
that does not mean it is going to happen. is that the expectation now has been built up so high that anything less than that could be seen as a bad night for the republican party. >> the strategy is to lower those expectations? >> that is right. keep those expectations in check. it seems as if the train has left the station on that one. and it can keep trying to lower it. until we see some evidence this is going to be a different election that it has been set to become law it will be hard to change that. >> how deal lower expectations while not dampening the enthusiasm of the folks in your base? >> that is a good way. you do not want to get your team convinced that there will when
that they stay at home. you cannot bring down expectations. it is a good way to motivate your base. if you stay home, do you think we have it in the bag? we do not. you are not out there. you can lose these close elections. the reality is it is not as if it is hurting them with money. there is a lot of folks giving money to candidates either directly or face third-party groups spending a great deal of money on behalf of republicans. >> it is one thing to say that one group against another is more vocal. there are more in your face. their rhetoric is -- they are louder with their rhetoric. it is another thing to say that one group is more enthused then another group. help me understand why we even are having this conversation about this enthusiasm gap. where is the evidence? who said the republicans are more energized then that left
and democrats. where's that coming from? >> that is a great question. when you look at polls especially as we get later on into the cycle, the pollsters ask the question how likely is it that you will go and vote. are you certain? is there a 50-50 chance you will vote? it is not likely you'll vote. what you do is you take those folks who say, i am certain. these are the people that if they're here were on fire, they would vote before the dow stood out. when we look at that, we see republicans by a good margin say they are more certain to vote than democrats. it is interesting. even independents say they will -- they are more certain to vote. it is not that democrats are
unhappy or the do not like democrats or do not like this president. there are telling pollsters they are not certain to come and vote as some republicans or independents. >> if democrats stay home, this will not be read as a lack of enthusiasm for a referendum on president obama? >> they will because folks will say if democrats were so enthusiastic about the president, why would they not support him? the reality is is a lot easier to turn out voters using anger than it is to turn of people using love or turn out people who are generally content or not exercised in one way or another. it was to democrats benefit to
have a fired up, energetic base that wanted to change something. now you have these -- this base that wants to change something on the other side. this independent number is important. will hear democrats did not turn out. it is that independent voter that gave democrats 60% of about gave obama the majority in 2008 that are wrecking decidedly toward power grid -- republicans. that is the biggest problem. when you look at the seats the democrats have to defeat, they are in districts that are marginal. they're not overwhelmingly republican. you have to overwhelm -- run a majority. if you are losing those folks, [unintelligible]
tavis: what are the numbers telling you? if the worst scenario that falls into place on election night, the worst scenario for the white house, i would think that is republicans taking over the house and senate. how does that change the white house strategy for getting anything done over the next two years? >> i think there is a change in strategy regardless of what you call the worst case scenario. we know going into this democrats are losing seats. the president has to wake up the next day knowing that there is no longer going to be a 59 seat majority or 40 plus seat majority. it has to take into account the republicans have to be part of this equation.
we're going to reach across the aisle and say let's start holding a whole bunch of meetings with republican leaders. whether it is saying let's find a way to be more entrenched on the things that we care about. make sure to protect those issues from republican resurgent attempts to roll them back. i do not know. if the president and white house will move forward, that is to pass legislation, there has to be something approaching a real outrage to the republicans. tavis: what are you looking at to what the election says about the contentious race for the white house in 2012? what are you looking at to draw
lines to the race? >> it is a great question. we will look at the swing states, colorado, new hampshire, virginia. in some cases, we have big statewide races and we will see how of democratic candidates do their and what it says about obama's chances, how he is doing among the independent voters and voters who -- where he over performed in 2008. college-educated boaters. one woman with a college education. folks making over $100,000 a year. those other groups he made significant inroads in. we're curious to see how he does there, as well as among blue- collar white man. where are his numbers there?
trying to use 2010 as an indicator in 2012 is dangerous. off-year elections rarely tell us what will happen to years from now. if we did, bill clinton would have been defeated. >> which is in part i ask what you are looking at. tavis: what are you looking at as we speak today, this stuff can change like the wind in a matter of seconds. what are the numbers tell you now? what will happen in the house and the senate? >> in the house, it is -- democrats playing defense. 45 seats now that are tossups. they're too close to call. they have to -- with fewer than
half of those seats. i will be paying close attention as polestar to come out. i still think we have a couple weeks to see just whether or not this man is heartening. as for the senate, it will come down to some of these states will have been paying zero attention to a year ago. wv, connecticut, washington state. even illinois where this thing has gone back and forth for some time. these are the real decision makers. in terms of what the senate looks like. if they're going to win a majority in the senate, they have to run those -- when those races. tavis: things can change fast in these kinds of races. glad to have you on. thanks for sharing your insights.
sam rockwell is next. stay with us. sam rockwell is the talented actor whose credits include "iron man 2". a scene from 'conviction". >> after that, if i even get that far. >>these things can take a long time. i might be 80 before and i don't know if i will find the answers. you have to promise me, you just have to. yourself to kill
ever again. if you do -- don't. >> all these things take liberties here in there. this movie is based on a true story. >> you would be surprised how much this stuff is true in conviction. it challenges you -- it is daunting to play real person. you are lucky to capture the essence by getting an accent or you do the best you can, do the homework and see how it goes. >tavis: the story line is? >> it is about betty waters and her brother. she becomes a lawyer, gets her ged and goes to law school.
it took for 12 years to get her brother, her only client out of prison. >> that is pretty amazing. tavis: a lot of dedication and you have to believe in this person. she had to get a ged to begin with. >> she had her ged. that is where they to poetic license. it is not easy. tavis: just to do all that so you can have one client. >> the background she came from, it was tough. and could tell me that relationship. you are the brother and hilary swank is your sister. romanticalmost like a relationship. i like it to soldiers in war who fought for each other and come back home. it is the kind of bond they
have. because of all the foster homes and reform schools went to his kids and they were separated and brought together. a lot of hardships. that is why as adults they could not imagine being separated. that is why she would go to this extent to get him out. tavis: you spent time with a sister? >> she is great. she is awesome. she can drink you under a table, that is the first thing. she is very sweet. you might underestimate her when you meet her because she is so nice. she has this steel spine behind all that. and very obviously convicted. >> what do you make of someone -- i am still saddesfaceted by . someone who has dedicated their life to investing all of their energy and effort into getting
this degree so they can represent their brother? >> it is intense. i do not think i made of this stuff. i do not know if i could do that. it is incredible. when i think about trying to do something like that, it makes you think about calling your loved ones after the film, who would do this? go to iraq and get someone who is missing in action. it is a lot to ask. tavis: besides spending time with her, i am curious about the process. what is your process of bringing to life? kenny to life? >> when i did "the green mile", i did a lot of research. documentary's, when i was doing
this movie, i was reading "in the belly of the beast" by norman mailer. there is a much research to do, it is daunting. you do the best you can. you would work on the accent and throw it away. you just try to use your imagination. tavis: when you invest this much energy into a project like this that puts on trial our system of jurisprudence, you learn things about the system, you change or a few points about the system, tell me about that? >> i think i was a little 19t naive. if people were in prison they did something wrong, they belong there. it is not true. the system is flawed. there is a lot of innocent people in prison right now for things they did not do on death
row. we put a lot of trust in the system and it is not necessarily founded. i think i was not that way until i was in this film. the world,more thatavis: moren we incarcerate people. it is a fascinating conversation. we seem to have these fits and starts about having a conversation about our penal system. >> it is horrible in there. it depends on the prison. guys come out and they are on stover when they eat, they asked permission to go to the bathroom, the get allergic to real oxygen, real air. they have been in air- conditioning for 20 years sometimes. there are so many adjustments. they cannot get a job. it is intense and they get
abused sometimes. tavis: how long was he incarcerated? >> he was in for 18 years. tavis: she was on the case the whole time. >> he was a suspect -- he did get in trouble. he was not an angel but he was not a killer. sometimes he would get into trouble if someone approached him. >tavis: where does his sister focus your efforts in terms of the evidence to get him -- >> the dna. >> this is a real guy dedicated to this. >> he is pretty honesawesome. tavis: the other thing i loved
as an african-american male is this is based on a true story. there are -- it challenges us to rethink the way we think the system and to look at the fact that all kinds of americans get caught up in the system. it does not just happen to people we think do not look at this. >> there was a white cop who got wrongly accused and he was in for six and a half years. you think it can only happen to certain types of people but it can happen to anybody. it happened to a cop, that is pretty intense. tavis: how do you go about picking the things -- "frost/nixon" is different from "iron man 2". is that there process?
>> absolutely. you do what you can to do different kinds of roles. i get lucky. i get good scripts that come to me. tavis: is your next project always the antithesis of what you have just done? >> it does not always work out that way but you try. you try to make a difference and shaken up and have some diversity. sometimes you are a hired gun and sometimes you develop a project, it depends. if drawn some sideburns or glasses or mustaches. research richard nixon or prison. >> did you have a choice? tavis: was there ever another option? >> no. i did not have plenty.
i do not know how to do anything else. i do not have any other skills except acting. but when -- barely passed, got her high school. it is the place i have read and the books i have read about acting. i'm a big acting -- nerd. tavis: did your parents never tried to talk you out of this? >> my mother quit acting awhile ago and my father is the printer. they dropped out early on years ago. my dad recently got back into acting. there were encouraging. i acted with my mother when i was a kid on stage. i learned the ropes from them. they certainly were not discouraging.
tavis: is this just good entertainment or is there a message in this movie. >> i hope it is both. i hope people enjoy it as a drama. i think there are some things to learn and i hope it sends a good message about the people you love. tavis: it is called "convictions". thanks a lot. catch me on the weekends on public radio international. you can access our podcast. yoas always, keep the faith. [captioning made possible by kcet public television] captioned by the national captioning institute --www.ncicap.org-- >> for more information on today's show, visit tavis smiley at pbs.org
tavis: germany next time -- join me next time. we will see you there. >> all i know is his name is james, and he needs extra help with his reading. >> i'm james. >> yes. difference, you help us all live better. >> nationwide insurance supports tavis smiley. with every question and answer, nationwide insurance is proud to join tavis in working to improve financial literacy and remove obstacles to economic empowerment one conversation at a time. nationwide is on your side. >> and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you.